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Scammers demanding untraceable cash

Scam artists are typically interested in one thing above all else: getting paid. They are out to make a quick buck (or many millions of bucks) by tricking consumers in to sending them money, especially if they can quickly turn it into untraceable cash. Over the years, wire transfer has been the method of choice for fraudsters looking to get paid by their victims. Recently, however, there has been an uptick in consumer complaints to Fraud.org reporting that scammers are asking them to use Green Dot MoneyPaks or Vanilla Reloads.

MoneyPaks and Vanilla Reloads are sold at thousands of major retailers. Users purchase the MoneyPak or Vanilla Reload and give cash to the clerk at the register to load on to them. By using the control number or PIN on the back of the card, the consumer can then add the funds onto a reloadable prepaid card or pay a MoneyPak or Vanilla Reload partner company directly.

While the misuse of MoneyPaks, Vanilla Reloads, or similar payment mechanisms isn’t new, NCL has received a significant number of complaints so far this year. The story of a consumer we’ll call “Chris,” who sent us complaint earlier this year is typical:

“The man called my place of business to say that my previous payment on my bill didn’t go through and that my business’s electricity would be shut off that day. … He requested that we pay only Green Dot MoneyPak. He even called me back to make sure I was going to pay it. He said I would get a call in 30 minutes from [the] reimbursement center for the card fees. I then realized that this was a scam and it was too late.”

These payment mechanisms have become popular with scammers because they are essentially the same as carrying cash. Fraudsters trick consumers into giving them the control number or PIN, which the scammer then uses to load the funds onto their own prepaid debit card. Since the funds are available instantly, the thief can use their debit card to take cash out of ATMs. These services aren’t protected from fraud the way that credit or debit cards are, the victim is typically left with nothing.

NCL is warning consumers to be on the lookout for scams where they are asked to load cash onto a MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, or similar cash-based payment device. Only give out the control number or PIN to approved partners of these services (a list of these partners is available on the companies’ websites). Be sure to only load funds from a MoneyPak or Vanilla Reload onto a prepaid debit card that you or someone you know controls. If you receive a telephone call or email from someone claiming that you’ve won a prize, but need to pay a fee via MoneyPak or Vanilla Reload to collect it, it’s a scam. Also be wary of callers claiming to represent bill collectors, the IRS, or other companies who ask for payment on one of these devices.

 

Consumers who have been approached by a scammer can file a complaint at Fraud.org.